Ode to a Chihuahua

Tiny head on tuffetOur Chihuahua’s currency is kisses.

To strangers, she offers a demure lick,
A kiss on the hand from
A prospective Latin lover.
“I would like to know you better.”

Relaxing at home,
Her tongue strokes my arm
Like a painter realizing her muse.
“How beautiful you are.”
Or a parent, stroking a child’s head.
“I will protect you.”
Always a questionable promise.

When we return from the unknown,
She is frantic with love.
Standing on hind legs,
She clutches my face between her paws
And kisses like a wife
Who thought herself widowed.
Our separation ended,
She no longer needs to be strong.

We pay in kind.
A primal press of primate lips
Against that tiny cheek,
Plush and yielding with fur.
She droops with pleasure.

Lying on her back in the sun,
Limp and heavy-lidded as a corpse,
She seems not to notice
Nibbling kisses on her belly,
Even when they stop.
There will surely be more.

— Copyright Esri Allbritten, 2016

Flaming Chihuahua! (not really)




The flaming hoop was made from a Styrofoam wreath base and flame-patterned fabric, both purchased at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I cut the fabric into strips (reserving some for the separate flames) and wrapped it around the wreath, then secured it with straight pins. Cutting the individual flames out was a little tedious, but worth it. The hoop was part of our family Halloween costume. Afterwards, we bought a PDF on Etsy on how to make an agility course for your dog out of PVC pipes, and Joe integrated the hoop into that.

I took this photo with my Samsung Galaxy 5 on a tripod, using burst shot, iso 800. Told her to “sit” in front of the hoop, then “wait,” then “hoop!”

Why fostering is crucial for small dogs.

Toy breeds were designed, by us, to be emotionally open and sensitive. Unlike working breeds (shepherds, retrievers, herding dogs, vermin killers), toy breeds didn’t evolve to work among lifestock, or guns, or even other dogs. Even Jake, who is confident and bouncy with Susan, had sort of shut down at the shelter where she got him. It will probably be a month before his new owners see him blossom into the playful, saucy dog he really is. I started to see a little bit of his clownish nature in the two days we’ve had him. He rubs against you like a cat and is prone to goofing around on blankets, rolling and giving us the side-eye while almost standing on his head. It’s good I can tell people that, because what they may see at first is this:

Jake in blankie.jpg

As for working breeds, a dog that seems mellow and only moderately energetic is damped down at the shelter as well. When you get it home, you may find you have an over-exuberant tyrant that demands two hours of hard exercise a day to keep it from eating your couch. So when shopping at the used-dog store, always ask to take a potential pet outside for a walk. This test drive will often show you some of what the dog can be, once it has a home.

In addition to keeping toy breeds out of the highly stressful shelter system, fostering provides a timeline of how long it takes a dog to get used to an unknown place. That’s useful, reassuring knowledge for new owners to have. For example, both Jake and Mojo were initially very distrustful of my husband. Jake would bark at him – a high-pitched, panicky bark. (Distrust of men isn’t bred into toy dogs, but it is common among pre-owned small dogs. They’re often the only solace of women in abusive relationships.) Luckily, toy breeds tend to be brainy, and by the second evening, Jake was sitting on Joe’s lap. The next morning, both dogs greeted him with wagging tails.

As for Mojo, he would like to be a one-person dog. A one-woman dog, to be more specific. In this time of upheavel, his ideal situation would be strapped to my chest in a box, with a chute to pour food down.

Susan had to walk a fine line when she got Mojo. At first she needed to baby him a little – rehabilitate him from the extreme trauma he’d suffered. But little by little, she began to refuse excessive demands for attention. He was forced to do more things on his own, and that built confidence. Mojo also had a tendency to be jealous of Jake. When he growled at Jake, Susan would scold him and put him down, then reassure Jake that he was still loved. She’s a superlative dog owner, and it’s sad that she’s being taken off the market due to health problems. I hope she’ll be able to do some pet sitting for other people, during her good periods.

Susan is out of the hospital for now. She’s picking up Jake & Mojo so Josie and Musette can have all my attention again. Susan cries when she thinks about how much she’s going to miss her dogs, but she (and I) are working hard to find them good new homes. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your pet is to lose them.

These dogs are in Boulder, Colorado. If you’re interested in adopting either or both, contact Susan Woodcock at (303) 253-4218 or suzuwoods@gmail.com.

You can click here to get even more info.

Jake & Mojo go for a walk

(There are no pix of the walk, because my hands were busy with leashes.)


“Please love us.”

Took the boys out for a walk to see how they did. They’re very helpful and good with jackets and harnesses. No probs there. It’s about 40 degrees F out, with snow and wet everywhere. I figured Jake, who is supposed to have Jack Russell in him, would be more into walks, but he lagged behind while Mojo walked right at my side. Susan (Jake and Mojo’s owner, who has MS, is living on disability and staying where she can until she finds homes for the dogs) says Jake is often balky on walks with strangers (Josie is, too). I’m pretty sure Jake knows exactly what’s going on and is very worried. Mojo is all, “Are you my new person? I love you!” Desperate, desperate love.

We didn’t spot any dogs, so I didn’t get to see their reaction. Susan says Mojo is the one more likely to pitch a fit, but if she picks him up, he stops.  Jake responds pretty well to verbal commands, although he has a stubborn streak – especially when it comes to barking at Musette Kitty. He got a time out in the bathroom today for that. Poor Musette is terrified of them. I don’t know what smack talk they’re giving her, but it does the trick. They know I don’t like it, and sometimes they can control themselves, but it’s pretty boring being penned in the kitchen, and so gratifying when she runs.

Mojo, the deaf one, is learning my hand signals very quickly. I just know this is going to result in me giving exaggerated beckoning motions and thumbs up to Josie after they’re gone. I talked to Susan on the phone, and she uses hand signals, too. I’ll get a video of hers for the new people, assuming we find some. She says that when she signals for Mojo to come, he will actually shove Jake aside, running to get to her.

Josie and I took a nice long walk afterwards. She loves getting wet, because then I turn the hair dryer on her.

Still no accidents in the house, and except for barking at the cat or if someone comes to the door, Jake is practically mute. Mojo usually is, according to Susan, but since his situation is all out of whack, he’s insecure. He freaks out at shelters. He lost hair from stress and wouldn’t eat at the last one, and was declared unadoptable. They were about to put him down when Susan took him home, but he’ll have to go back if I can’t find a home for him. Still, a woman at one of the shelters said two weeks of advertising and word of mouth often does the trick, so here’s hoping.

Just spoke to Susan, and the docs gave her the infusions to do herself, so she can go back to the empty condo she’s borrowing (living on disability, she can no longer afford rent). She offered to take the boys back today, but I want to keep them another night. I want to see if Mojo cries again, and it’s so interesting, working with a deaf dog. Susan says she’ll be glad of a restful night. She can come for them tomorrow during daylight so we can video her hand signals. Then Musette Kitty can have her house back.

These dogs are in Boulder, Colorado. If you’re interested in adopting either or both, contact Susan Woodcock at (303) 253-4218 or suzuwoods@gmail.com.

You can click here to get even more info.



Jake & Mojo: An Update


Jake loves the belly rubs.

Jake and Mojo (who I still keep wanting to call Milo) are staying here. They’re a little more challenging than the typical dogsitting gig, but considering that they haven’t had a permanent home in I don’t know how long, they’re not bad. Last night I put two washable potty pads down for them (one with a pee spot of Josie’s, and the next morning, they had used them. So there have been no accidents in the house – yay!

These are very smart dogs. Mojo is deaf, so I’m using hand signals with him. He’s extremely responsive but also very needy in this time of disruption. He wants to be in my lap, where he’s quiet and still – also warm and somewhat flatulent (I think their diet is a little rich). If he isn’t in contact, he has a vast array of piteous noises. I’m cutting down on these by never approaching him unless he’s quiet. Since Susan got Mojo two years ago, he’s slept in her bed every night, and she warned me that he might be a little screamy if I left him downstairs. He was, briefly, but extinguished in no more than five minutes, so our sleep was not disrupted. (We also shut the door and ran an air filter for white noise) They’ve gone out in the yard (where Mojo goes to the last place he saw his mama and stares out through the gate).


Mojo looking desperate.


Mojo comforted.

Jake was shocked to find out that a MAN lived here, and is very distrustful of Joe. He looked frankly astonished to see Joe kissing all over Josie, so I think that will be helpful. He does let Joe pet him (not for long, and he’s nervous about it). There has been some growling, but he usually shuts up when I scold him. It will be important for a new owner to keep on that and let him know she does not need or want protection.

They have barked at Musette, our cat, but haven’t tried to get at her through the fence that keeps them in the kitchen. On the whole, they don’t seem particularly broken – they just need a little work. They also need an alpha person (no problem here). Jake got jealous of Josie (our Chihuahua) last night and went for her. I roared and then growled, and he was on his back, belly up, in a flash. This morning, in the yard, she told him off and he left her alone. I’d say it’s important to break them of any dominant behavior. Don’t let them out the door first, don’t let them stand on you (I already have Mojo trained to get down), put paws on you, or lick you excessively. I’m going to take them on a walk today. Susan says they’re not good with other dogs, particularly big dogs. I believe it was Jake who was attacked by a bigger dog as a puppy.

I’ve called and called shelters, and no one has room. This is going to have to be done person to person, so keep spreading the word. Susan is in the hospital for the next five days getting infusion therapy for her MS, but it looks like she doesn’t have the thing where her skin peels off, so there’s that.

If you’re thinking, “Oh, Esri’s going to keep them,” I can tell you that there is zero chance of that (my own pets are being shamefully neglected). My job is to give them time and make them better, more confident dogs, but if I can’t find a new home for them, I’ll hand them over to the Humane Society in the knowledge that they may be put down. So keep working, my lovelies. Keep working.

Mojo resting

Mojo not needing me for a moment..

These dogs are in Boulder, Colorado. If you’re interested in adopting or fostering them, here’s contact info. Please pass this on to anyone who might help.

(303) 253-4218   Susan Woodcock


The previous blog post has more info. You can click here to go directly there.